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22 August 2002

Data Extract Service

Commodity Classifications HS and SITC

The earliest data in the COMTRADE database refer to the year 1962. At that time the first revision of the SITC was used to classify the commodities. In 1976, SITC Rev.2 was officially introduced. Not all countries switched immediately to the new classification, which means that for some countries we have 1976 data reported in S2 (and S1, since we convert back to S1 from S2) and for other countries we only have 1976 reported in S1. In 1988, SITC, Rev.3 was launched. Again, not all countries were able to make the switch to S3 immediately in that year.

The Statistical Commission of the United Nations adopted in 1995 a recommendation to add the Harmonized System classification to the COMTRADE database system. The HS classification is maintained by the World Customs Organization and is considerably more detailed that the SITC. The first version of the HS was introduced in 1988. Therefore, UNSD requested from all UN member states in 1995 to send data in HS starting with the year 1988. Not all countries were able to comply with this request. In 1996, a major revision of the HS classification was take into production.

Currently most data are reported to UNSD according to the HS classification, version 1996 (H1). The data, which are first stored in COMTRADE according to H1, are also converted and stored in all other 4 classifications (H0, S3, S2 and S1). It is not possible to convert data properly from SITC to HS, nor is it possible to convert data from an older to a newer revision of a given classification. Therefore, if a country reported data in H0, it is possible to convert to S3, S2 and S1, but not to H1. Likewise, S3 can be converted to S2 and S1, but not to H1 and H0. And so forth.


Full descriptions of the commodity headings of H1 and H0 are given in publications of the series "Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System" issued by the World Customs Organizations. To identify the appropriate HS code for many commodities, users can refer to the "HS Commodity Data Base" a CD-ROM product issued by the World Customs Organization. Furthermore, national statistical offices may have descriptions of the HS headings available, like the US Bureau of the Census at their web pages for foreign trade.

Descriptions of the commodity headings of S3, S2 and S1 are given in publications of the series "Standard International Trade Classification, Statistical Papers Series M No. 34". Detailed lists of the commodities included under each heading of the SITC are set out in the appropriate edition of the publication: "Commodity Indexes for the Standard International Trade Classification, Statistical Papers Series M38 (2 vols.)". Some information on the headings of the SITC can be found on the UN Classification web page, where also details of related classifications are given. 

United Nations Statistics Division - International Merchandise Trade Statistics